Provincial forces put on high alert
MINISTER of Interior Sar Kheng yesterday issued an order demanding that all provincial governors create a “standby working group” to monitor the political situation in anticipation of unrest following the opposition party’s potential dissolution later this week.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide on Thursday whether to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the Kingdom’s largest opposition party, after the party and its leaders were accused of attempting to overthrow the government – accusations that are widely considered politically motivated.
Kheng said the provincial working groups must “monitor and deal with any plot to topple the legitimate government”.
“I would like to inform the governors to control and monitor the situation and solve any problems quickly,” the directive reads.
On Sunday, the Koh Kong provincial government declared it would take legal action against any of its citizens who entered Phnom Penh with the intent to demonstrate in support of the CNRP, and the Ministry of Interior said that any demonstrations at the Supreme Court would be blocked.
Vei Samang, Kampong Speu provincial governor, said yesterday that he would educate his constituents against protesting, but didn’t expect any problems.
“We need to tell them not to violate the law . . . As the authority, we need to do anything to maintain public order, especially following the orders of the Ministry of Interior,” said Samang.
Another recently obtained statement from the Interior Ministry ordered the creation of reserve forces in every department, beginning on Wednesday and ending on Friday. The statement, from the Department of Public Order, requires that these forces maintain readiness 24 hours a day.
Signed November 8 by department head Sek Phoumy, the vaguely worded statement demands that all departments be prepared to “mobilise forces to implement orders when necessary”. The statement also says members of the reserve forces “must wear combat uniforms”.
During this three-day period, every department will make daily reports of the “situation” to the central Public Order Department, and are encouraged to make reports on specific “incidents” when necessary.
Khieu Sopheak, interior ministry spokesman, confirmed the ministry met yesterday to discuss the political situation.
“The interior minister led the meeting to confirm the current situation for the inferior officials so that they know more about the situation. When they understand, they will support the measure,” Sopheak said.
Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, had noted on Sunday that peaceful protests were legal – they are protected under both the Constitution and the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations – and said that “when the situation is calm, the National Police are also calm”.
Yesterday, he said it was nonetheless important for the force “to prepare to fulfil their duty if necessary”.
He went on to say that police can be “flexible”, and would make sure not to disturb Cambodia’s tourism industry.
Mu Sochua, deputy president of the CNRP, said the Interior Ministry’s moves were a show of force meant to intimidate.
“If the government wants to show force against its own people [then] it is the government itself that creates social insecurity,” she said in a message, adding that “any use and abuse of force to crackdown on civil liberty is state violence against citizens”.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at a forum earlier this year at the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh. In a directive yesterday, Kheng put provincial police forces on high alert.